This experiment was inspired by XKCD, however it not affiliated with the web comic or Randall Munroe. Please don’t sue me!
How do I cancel or pause?
Login at bobcatinabox.com/myboxes, click the Billing tab and ‘Pause Subscription’ in order to stop the subscription from renewing. The bot will continue to spend funds you have given it.
How long will it take for the first packages to arrive?
Every package purchased by the bot has free shipping, and free shipping is rarely overnight or priority. Shipping time varies, but expect the first package to arrive within four to eight weeks of signing up for the bot. You can always see the estimated arrival on the Incoming tab at bobcatinabox.com/myboxes.
If I want to sign up to have the bot mail to several friends, can I do this in one transaction or do I sign people up sequentially?
You can do this in one transaction. After you sign up you will set a username/password for the bot to login at bobcatinabox.com/myboxes where you can change your shipping address, add multiple shipping addresses and allocate your monthly budget among them. You can also set different keywords for each address and set how many packages each address should get (i.e. 1-2 packages at $5/month for your favorite cousin and 5-10 packages at $10/month for your best friend).
If I were to add another address to have things sent to my grandmother or nephew, am I able to do a separate keyword list for each address or would they all be the same?
You can certainly set different keywords for different addresses. The keyword page looks like this with multiple addresses…
Do I *have* to set keywords to get packages, or does a lack of keywords just make the packages totally random?
You don’t need to set keywords to get packages. However the bot will wait a bit for you to set keywords before buying anything, so not setting keywords will delay the first packages by 1-2 weeks.
Are additional keywords OR or AND?
With keywords the bot uses an OR operator not an AND. If you submit a comma separated list of keywords (for example: red, gadget, craft, star wars) the bot will search for each keyword separately. That is, a selected package will only need to match one of the keywords not all of the keywords (red OR gadget OR craft OR star wars). The more keywords the better.
Can I sign up if I am outside the US?
Yes, the bot can ship to nearly every country on the planet. It is not limited to the US and there are many subscribers in Europe, South America, Asia and Australia. Some items of course will not ship outside North America. But the bot will only buy items that can be shipped to you, so you will get just as many packages as American subscribers.
How do the merchants make money on low cost items with free shipping?
The short answer is that I don’t know. For many of the items, merchants are certainly selling at a loss. But there are lots of sellers, on eBay and other online platforms, who keep offering items for next to nothing with free shipping….so the bot will keep buying them! As most of the items are shipped from Asia, many of the merchants pay several dollars for “free shipping”. A good number of the items bought by the bot will have “Shipping: $5” or something similar printed on the custom form! Even though the cost to ship is several times the winning bid, merchants fulfill the order and ship the items the bot buys. Perhaps they have a discounted shipping deal that makes it worthwhile. It is something of a mystery as to why they offer the items for such low prices on eBay, as it is easy to set a reserve price or start the auction at a higher bid. Perhaps the merchants ship these small items to boost their feedback scores or hope that they will be bundled with other purchases.
How does the bot make money?
The bot is able to make money, even with payment processing costs and overhead. This is because for some reason there are packages available with free shipping that you can order for practically nothing online.
What does not go towards packages pay to feed the team running the bot and growing the project.
If I add/remove/change addresses or funds, do the changes take effect immediately or at the next billing cycle?
The changes take effect immediately unless your total budget decreases (across all addresses), in which case the change takes effect next billing cycle.
If I cancel my subscription, will I still receive all of the packages that are on there way or not yet purchased?
You will get all the packages that you paid for. This means that you will likely continue getting a package every now and then well after you have canceled the subscription.
Do keyword changes take effect immediately?
Keyword changes are implemented once every few days. However items bought for keywords might take quite a bit longer to show up depending on shipping times.
Can you open source the bot?
I would love to make the bot open source. However as Bobcat In A Box is very much in the tradition of Mechanical Turk, that would simply be impossible.